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Saturday, 7 November 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Major Swine Admit Storygames Are Crappy

It continues to amaze me how the Swine make these astounding admissions of their real agendas or real truths behind their ideological bent, on websites that are mainly for the true believers, where they somehow believe that only the true believers will see it and then.. what.. it somehow won't be caught by the ignorant "unwashed masses"? How many times will this happen to them before they realize that sooner or later what they say WILL become public knowledge, especially when my Proxy Army is out there looking for this stuff!

Take as our latest exhibit of evidence for the prosecution, this quote from Vince Baker at his "lumpley" forums:

"If you're designing a roleplaying game to tell a story, one of the first things you have to do is make winning and losing irrelevant. You have to make it so that even if the player rolls all 1s, or badly flubs the dice tactics, or whatever, the story goes forward in an interesting and good direction. In short, you have to make it a crappy game, like Chess would be if we both won every time no matter what moves we made."
So there you have it, one of the great luminaries of the "Storygames"/Theory movement admitting that Story-games are in fact, CRAPPY GAMES, and that you cannot make Story the number one priority without in turn draining it of the concept of GAME.

Sounds like what I've been saying, and what the Swine have been trying to deny all along; doesn't it?


(Originally posted December 15, 2007)


  1. Au Contraire - while story games have their limitations, the quote you present in your post is bunk. The best example of a story game that I can think of is the Escape from New York board game. Try it. Its is awesome, the perfect harmony of story telling and game mechanic, easy to play, easy to survive individual encounters, but hard to survive in the long run. It is an endurance race against time, just like a movie. The real limitation is that the only events possible in that game are those in the movie it I based on, and to achieve the same ending as in the movie is very, very hard. Another story game, which I can't remember is based on Frank Herbert's Dune. There is the Avalon Hill and there is a Parker Brothers' version. PH is the one I played, it uses the old Shadowlord! components, but the play is totally different, not a bad game either.

    Regarding storytelling role playing games, I dislike railroading, and I run a storytelling game via a sandbox campaign. Real sandbox. They can go anywhere. That might cut a session short, I have to stop where I need to do prep, but honestly, I hate running into walls in other DM's worlds, so I provided none for my players. PC's are tied into the background and it takes a while to flesh out a character, so I am liberal with resurrections and players get to play anything they desire. That reduces the risk of death, and still makes death something they don't want to happen to them - they are out of the game until resurrected. I made a line, that the only real death will be the Total Party Kill, when I will start a new game with a new storyline set in the same campaign.

    There are also Victory Conditions for the campaign as a whole. Characters are in position to rise in prominence via their adventuring and eventually influence the outcomes that will affect the campaign as a whole. How much they are able to affect these major outcomes determines how well they did in the campaign.

    Now, for storytelling. You can tell a real story via role playing (and you actually do storytelling every time you run a game session), once you realize that writing fiction and running a game are two separate media, which means that if my campaign ever gets published, it will be as a novel, and what I came to realize is that the events and time flows differently in a game session and I a written story. Finally, you have to realize, that you can tell a story in an open ended sandbox role playing game as well - you tell the story through the keys of the wilderness and the dungeon maps, you tell the story through the NPC's and the Encounter Tables, you tell the story through the game objectives. Of course the story's outcome depends on what the player characters attempt and accomplish, but it's still the story you want to tell. There are two types of events of course - random events that may or may not happen, and key events which have to happen in the story. Random events are tabulated in encounter tables, the essential events in a timeline. Some blogging DM's arrogantly refer to "flavor text". That flavor is the story in a skilled narrator's hands. Those DM's are simply bad storytelling, probably bad DM's as well.

    1. You do get that the quote I quoted is from what the storygames movement considers one of its greatest heroes, second only to Ron Edwards?

      Also, if this is your normal writing style, your novel will never be published. Unless you do it yourself.

    2. Wow you read it? I gave up in the first paragraph.

    3. Okay after rereading that I have this to say. The faster we get the silly nonsense that RPGs can lead to story telling out of our heads the better we. Pen and paper RPGs is a game. Your suppose to bullshit around with friends and have fun. This is not serious story telling time.

  2. @ RPGPundit, I am not writing literary fiction here, just sharing ideas about DMing. I have no idea, who made the quote. I have my own setting and make my own game mechanics to better represent the real world and I don't much venture outside in the gaming hobby. I added weapon reach and holding the ground to the AD&D weapon vs armor chart, then took a phenomenological approach to break my game away from the abstractness of the miniatures and table-top wargaming, to put the player into the PC's shoes and make them experience slipping in blood while fighting in formation, trying to save a team-mate bleeding out from a mortal chest wound by a lance, and scrambling to cast a spell while another lancer is riding them down. Warriors have to travel far and wide to find fencing instructors willing to teach them, before any improvement after advancement in level. Master-student relationships. That kind of stuff.

    @LevyK - Random generated dungeons, kick the door, kill the monster, take the treasure are BORING. Being able to out-think the DM is boring. I became a DM because other DM's bore me. My players are happy, amazed, and generally stay with me until I run out of steam. Whether you like it or not, if you are running any fantasy role-playing game, you are telling a story to the players. I run serious, tedious, realistic adventures, and players generally thank me for the amazing detail and the immersive experience.

  3. Then give them a goal. Look at Ultima 4 as a example. You got to prove you are the avatar by being a better person, getting the words of each virtue, getting the symbols of the virtues, and finally explore only one dungeon to get the book of wisdom. There is your goals and it is up to you to do this.

  4. I do, albeit a lot more softly. I run open-ended sandboxes, after all. No railroading whatsoever, unless players try to build one, but they need to develop the agency first.

    There is a push and a pull in every campaign. Push is someone being after you. Say that the proverbial tavern you are sitting in gets attacked by a bunch of men at arms intent on putting shackles on you. Pull is something that the players may decide to go after. Campaign objectives is the biggest - once you get the players into your story. Next comes the PC's (self-development). In the medieval West, knights travelled from all over to what is now Italy, to get fitted and obtain (for a small fortune) the best plate mail in the known world. In the Medieval East, swordsmen traveled far and wide to find the best fencing instructor that nobody heard of, to give them an edge in battle. Same happened later in post-feudal Europe, where everyone flocked first to Spain, and later to what is now Germany, for the best fencing masters. So, why should characters simply advance in level, when they get enough experience points? They must find get trained first! Nobody teaches for free, Thieves Guilds, Wizards Guilds, religious orders all want to get paid, and money is easy, as they player characters get stronger, they are forced to take sides and must provide services other than gold to have that teaching session with the renowned master, and everything that gets done, especially violent action, has unavoidable and irreversible consequences. The great web of being.